Tales Of Love And Defiance – reviewed by Cameron Pierce
The album opens with a nice toe-tapper. The opening song, Scoundrel, has such clever prosody. From the opening intro counting down from 4-3-2-1 to the piano triplets, it promises a high production value which never disappoints throughout the entire album. The bass is beefy and the top end crisp and shimmering. The parts are so clear and discernible.
The album title wraps up the themes of this album very nicely. Lyrically, Michael S. Carpenter touches on well, let’s say, touchy subjects for some people. This is the defiance part! The second track, Don’t Believe, holds no punches but does it in such a way that this listener related to right away. The middle eight is so cleverly written; a smile found its way onto my face that wouldn’t leave for quite some time. I believe the sentiment is so timely and the world needs more of this kind of thinking.
By the third song, I’m Done With You, I came to realize that I was incredibly pulled into the lyrics of this album. I am a melody person, but lyrically the writing is very strong. That’s not to say it’s not good melodically; it is. I think that the melodies serve to highlight the lyrics incredibly well.
This album is full of fun and whimsy, lyrically and musically. The way the mix and instrumentation dances around the stereo spectrum in The Belly of The Beast is a great example of this. The falsetto and the sample in Hammer Hammer Hammer are other examples of this. You can not listen to this and not smile. The lyric on Hammer Hammer Hammer is too fun. It may verge on being a comedy song but has just the right amount of seriousness and angst to remain a classic rock song; and rock it does. Those guitars are awesome!
The tales of love are peppered throughout the album as expected given the title of the album. There are real, meaningful, and emotional songs on this album. Classic chord progressions lead to beautiful refrains. Gorgeous songs. Some have a somber tone and others celebratory. The fun and clever lyrics and arrangements do not stop in these love songs. I Can’t Say I Love You has all the makings of a retro pop hit. This one had me smiling throughout the whole listen and what a hook!
Michael captures a remarkably authentic bluegrassy, folksy arrangement in Goodbye Laurie (Sail Away to Sea). Again the lyrics bring humor and lightness to what I see as a very complex and serious subject matter. I can not get over how great Goodbye Laurie sounds and the musicianship that was displayed in the performances.
Dirty Little Secret is another example of the strong writing on this album again bringing whimsy to a very unfortunate story. The arrangement of this song is so refreshing and well done. The call and response style bass fills are just fantastic. The bass and horns are so effective. Gotta love the organ! The talk-singing is so cool; what a great way to end it.
I knew as soon as I heard the song Nikole it would be one of my favorites on the album. The beautiful fingerstyle acoustic chord progression and arrangement provides the perfect backing to what is a playful and sentimental song that is so lovely. The Beatles influences show through much of the album and very much in the best of ways in Nikole. This song has a timelessness to it.
The mellow and melancholy is not missed in the musical journey of listening to this album. You Went Down The Stairs again represents the skillful songwriting found throughout the album. The prosody found in the instrumentation, the melody, and the lyrics are masterful. I simply love how the piano becomes more fragile with the added chord extensions on the final line of the chorus. The ending of the song is… perfect.
If I am to use Occam’s Razor to explain my reaction listening to Tales of Love and Defiance for the first time it would be the following: I love this album because it is fantastic!
- Cameron Pierce‘s album Sincere Design is available here.
A great mix of tunes – rock, country, bluegrass and pop!
- Danny Lockhart
I’m extremely impressed… The musicality is great, very tuneful, and the lyrics are very poignant and clever. The album reminds me in some ways of one of my favorite musical styles — the social commentary songs of the late 60s and early 70s. That genre has continued with groups such as Belle and Sebastian. So it is really up my alley. Congratulations on putting together an outstanding album.
My two favorites (from the first half) are Scoundrel and Belly of the Beast… (And) from the second part… Hammer Hammer Hammer, which reminds me thematically of 20th Century Man, by the Kinks, and Give Up the Ghost, which has a Richard Thompson quality about it. Incredible.
- Paul Halpern – Professor Halpern’s latest book, Synchronicity, is available here.
Denny & I enjoy listening to the CD. It’s on top of the pile of CD’s we listen to most often. I hear influences from The Beatles, Zevon, Elton, George Martin. All that mixes together.
I’m Done With You – This one stayed with me for days. It’s catchy, good melody and a real nice lead.
Come Back To Me – Another good melody and hook. Love the strings and the lead.
I Can’t Say I Love You – We thought it was your wife on harmonies. You really got the falsetto going.
Goodbye Laurie – Love the instrumentation. Yea banjo! Super good chorus. This may be my favorite. We were singing the chorus right away.
Hammer Hammer Hammer – Denny loves the hammer sound. Nice dissonant chording/ rhythm. Good drum break. This rocks!
The Story of Me & You – Nice sax. Melody has a big vocal range.
Dirty Little Secret – Great lead break. All instrumentation was very catchy.
Nikole – Denny’s favorite and my 2nd favorite.
Free From Sorrow – Great crunchy rhythm.
Just because I didn’t mention every song doesn’t mean I didn’t like them. But, these are my first impressions and things that hit me. Denny said he feels bad you were hurt so much. Even if you were or weren’t, as a writer you made a person feel that pain. Your voice gave your writing honesty and feeling.
Ya did good, Mike.
- Jill & Denny Kellogg – owners of Mid-Town Instrument Rentals and Repair/Rumblehouse Studio, Chicago
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